Here comes one of the most arguable, debatable, contentious, controversial, disputable, and polemical topics. Hundreds of movies, thousands of lectures, millions of books, billions of articles, and trillions of thoughts have been poured on this unsolved and possibly unsolvable enigma. Many great people have spent their entire lives trying to understand this mystery. Though there can never be a full stop to this quest, we can certainly move forward by at least a step through a solid scientific analysis. Following is a recorded conversion between Divya and Vidya on the mysterious brain-fucking concept of God.
Divya: Hiii Vidya! How are you?
Vidya: Hi Divya. I am awesome. How are you?
Divya: I am fine too. You seem very busy these days. Could not catch hold of you.
Vidya: Ha ha.. No Divya. In fact I am always free. As you are too busy, it seems as if others are busy. If only you had contacted me you would come to know that I am almost always free.
Divya: I am very sorry Vidya. It was my fault not to have been in touch with you. So, what are you doing nowadays?
Vidya: It is totally fine. Recently, I have been thinking on the concept of God.
Divya: Oh really! Wow! That is something that I always wanted to know more. Could you please tell me more about it?
Vidya: Sure. By all means. Feel free. I can only tell you to the best of my knowledge and experience.
Divya: Cool. Tell me. Do you believe in God?
Vidya: I think the question has to be re-framed.
Divya: Why do you think the question has to be reframed?
Vidya: Because the question assumes that there is a single universal definition of God.
Divya: Don’t we have a single universal definition of God?
Vidya: Definitely not. Surprisingly enough, there are thousands of definitions or interpretations of God.
Divya: Ok. Then what would be the ideal question?
Vidya: There is no ideal question. There is always a better question.
Divya: Which would be a better question in this scenario?
Vidya: One of the good questions can be: “According to you, what is God?”
Divya: Fine. According to you, what is God?
Vidya: I would strongly recommend you to ask this question after knowing at least some of the many interpretations of God.
Divya: Why do you think knowing the different interpretations of God is important?
Vidya: For many reasons. One main reason is when we know different interpretations of a concept, we can select the best interpretations and if possible try to make use of it in our lives.
Divya: Ok. What are the different interpretations of God?
Vidya: There are an uncountable number of interpretations of God. A small set of them are:
- Creator of everything is God
- High qualities is God
- Ganapathi, Lakshmi, Shiva, Vishnu etc are Gods
- Rama, Krishna, Jesus Christ, Allah etc are Gods
- God is something whom you cannot see, hear, touch, feel or even think about
- Soul is God
- I am God
- Passion is God
- Everything is God
- Consciousness is God
- Nation is God
- The name given to a God is God
- Service to mankind is God
- Love is God
- Work is God
- Dharma is God
- Nature is God
- The highest state of happiness is God
- Mind/thoughts is God
- People are Gods
- Humanity is God
- God is just a placeholder for a concept for which any beautiful interpretation can be attached that makes us happy and good
- God is just a concept to fool people
- Whatever may be the shit concept of God, we don’t need it. The world is better without it
- Thousands more…
Divya: Oh. So many interpretations. I didn’t know. How come there are so many different interpretations?
Vidya: The interpretations come as a result of variegated thinking of billions of minds. As people are different, so their thinking and hence interpretations of abstract concepts like life, mind, God, death, good, happiness etc.
Divya: Fine. According to you, which is the best interpretation of God?
Vidya: I like all these thousands of interpretations of God. There is a community of people believing/disbelieving in each of these interpretations. Some interpretations are scientifically and logically sound. A few others are philosophically beautiful. A couple more are psychologically useful. Yet others are good choices for bad fights. The first two interpretations are my personal favorite.
Divya: Cool. Due to time constraints let us stick to the first two interpretations of God. Do you believe in a God, who created everything?
Vidya: Both yes and no as “I don’t know”.
Divya: Why are you taking a neutral position? Why don’t you either completely believe/completely disbelieve in it?
Vidya: I partly believe in a creator because there is no rational evidence/proof that a creator doesn’t exist. Similarly, I partly do not believe in a creator because there is no rational existence/proof that a creator exists. Hence, I am taking a neutral position and I believe it is the most scientific and logical decision to stand by.
Most people never in their lifetime use the phrase “I don’t know” as they think it is some kind of shame to accept not knowing something. But, they miss the point that it requires guts to say “I don’t know” and of course it is most scientific to say “I don’t know” when they really do not know something. For this question, my answer is “I don’t know”.
Divya: You mainly focused on evidence/proofs. Do you think that the evidence/proofs is the only way of understanding the universe?
Vidya: I do not know if asking for evidence/proofs is the only way to understand the universe. But, that is certainly the mindset we have followed for thousands of years to advance our understanding about the universe. A bit strict definition of science relates to the disciplined way/method to study the natural world. A method/process is called scientific if it has been observed naturally or through experiments, or if it is tested/verified, or it has been proven formally through the existing observations/theory. Hence, a claim only becomes a good theory/law/theorem/fact with solid observations/evidence/proofs. Else, it remains a claim only and it does not get accepted by the scientific community.
For example, long long ago many cultures believed that the Earth was flat. People through reasoning realized that the Earth was a sphere and not an infinite flatland. They also believed in a geocentric model, where Sun, Moon, and stars revolved around the stationary Earth. When people tried to identify flaws in their reasoning and developed more scientific tools to untangle the mysteries of mother nature they came up with better theories about the universe. The great scientists such as Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler showed that everyone on Earth except them were wrong about the geocentric model and led the way to the heliocentric model, in which Sun was the center of the universe. The greatest scientist of all times, Sir Isaac Newton, not only proved the elliptical orbits of the planets but also invented the scientific (mathematical) tool for proving it, namely calculus. With the observations of Hershel and Bessel, we only realized that Sun was not the center of the universe. It was simply an ordinary star among billions of stars. Going on, we got to know about galaxies, universe, parallel universe, white dwarf, neutron stars, black holes, wormholes, time travel, and so on. The only tool we have used till now for our understanding of the universe is the scientific method and it has given awesome results each time. The scientific method is time tested magical wand for our advancement of knowledge about the universe and by far the only way we know to discover God, if he exists.
Divya: Nice. But, why do some people disbelieve in a creator?
Vidya: There are many reasons. Major two reasons are:
- [No Evidence.]
People have never seen a rational evidence/proof that a creator exists. Hence, they disbelieve in it. But, it is quite illogical to say that an object does not exist simply because one could not see/experience it. For example, because we have never seen a thing that can transform from living to non-living state and vice versa an unlimited number of times does not mean that the thing doesn’t exist. Just that we do not know.
- [Darwin's Theory of Evolution.]
Another common reason why people disbelieve in a creator is because of their belief in the ground-breaking theory of evolution developed by the British naturalist Charles Darwin in 1859. The theory is based on a process called natural selection, in which biological features become significant due to the interaction of the species with its environment. Certain species with sustainable features/traits survive than others. As per the theory, we thriving in this world is a matter of luck and probability. Because of this reason, many reject the concept of creation and hence a creator. But again, the universe might be so complicated that the entire evolution might be a simulated experiment.
Divya: Why do people believe in a creator?
Vidya: A majority of people believe in a creator. Again, there are several reasons. Some of the common reasons are:
- [No Evidence.]
People have never seen a rational evidence/proof that a creator does not exist. Hence, they believe in it. Again, it is illogical to say that an object exists simply because there is no way to prove the non-existence of it.
- [Parents' and Environment's Influence.]
Quite often, parent’s thoughts and the way of life gets inherited by their children. The humans are like machines. Whatever they learn till the age of 20 mostly retains through their entire life unless they start to question heavily, think deeply, and have solid exposure. Most parents knowingly/unknowingly force their children in believing what they believe, not giving an opportunity for the children to contemplate, analyze, and understand the world as they see. Consider the teapot example of British mathematician and logician Bertrand Russel. If the ancient books said that there is a giant cosmological teapot surrounding the Earth and Sun and it is taught to the kids every Sunday, a majority would automatically believe in it as everyone around them would be believing in it and it seems weird not to believe in such a teapot. Also, however one can think, they cannot come up with an evidence/proof to disprove it. Hence, they start believing.
- [Creator Argument.]
Many a times, the following argument called creator argument is given to prove the existence of a creator: “A potter makes pots, a carpenter makes furniture, and a shoemaker makes shoes. If everything around us have a maker/creator, then there should be someone/something that created our world/universe. He is God.” The argument is flawed. This is because it tries to come up with a theory generalizing from a few examples, which cannot be done as per mathematical logic/boolean algebra. Who knows, the world might be so complicated that it got created on its own. The creator argument only gives a possibility for the existence of a creator, not a certainty. There is yet another problem with the creator argument. The analysis of the argument leads to a paradox: If everything is created by the creator, then who created the creator? If that creator came into existence on his own, why can’t the universe exist on its own?
- [Projection of Childhood.]
Here is yet another beautiful observation by Indian philosopher Osho. These are his exact statements that wonderfully depicts one of the reasoning in believing in a creator: “Man feels so helpless, so afraid of death, so burdened with life’s problems, and because he has been raised by a father, by a mother. Those were the beautiful days, no responsibility, no worry. Somebody was taking care of him. That psychological childhood is projected into all the religions. God becomes the father. And there are a few religions in which the God becomes the mother. It is a simple psychological projection of a child. Whenever you are afraid, whenever you are in trouble, you start seeking help.”
Divya: Oops! That is a hell lot of information and it is very confusing.
Vidya: Yes. It is. But, as we have seen, these reasons are severely flawed and they are not technically sound to be the good reasons. As we have not yet seen a technically sound or convincing reason, it is quite difficult to either totally believe/disbelieve in a creator. Because we do not have a rational evidence/proof about the existence/non-existence of a creator, I would like to be on the neutral position that a creator may or may not exist.
I think after several thousands of years man might be able to create life. If he succeeds in his endeavor, in some sense he will become equivalent to God, the creator.
Divya: Wow! That is exciting. What about the second interpretation of God, the high qualities?
Vidya: High qualities is a general phrase that can be used for perfection, infinite goodness, infinite intelligence, infinite power, omnipotence, and so on. Often, God is attached with such high qualities rather than considering the creator interpretation alone. Sometimes, both these interpretations are combined that results in a combination that may or may not be a fact.
Divya: Do you believe in a God with high qualities?
Vidya: Scientifically speaking, both yes and no. Psychologically speaking, yes.
Divya: Why is your answer so different in different perspectives?
Vidya: Here is the short answer. Scientifically and factually, I do not know if such a God exists because of no evidence/proof on the existence/non-existence of such a God. But, philosophically and psychologically, believing in it I believe improves one’s mental personality. Hence, I like to believe that such a God exists irrespective of whether that kind of God exists or not in reality.
Divya: How can you believe in something psychologically when you do not know whether it exists or not scientifically?
Vidya: Consider a very simple example, my favorite movie Titanic. Jack and Rose do not exist in reality. They are simply the characters enacted by the great actors Leonardo and Kate, respectively. Still, I would like to believe and I strongly believe that Jack and Rose existed. Each and every time I think of the two lovers, I automatically think about their eternal love. They are my great teachers who have taught me and still teaching me how to love. This is the psychological benefit of believing in something irrespective of its existence.
Divya: That sounds interesting. So, how exactly do you apply this technique to God?
Vidya: The concept is similar to having role models. If we simply listen to the stories of the passion of the greatest scientist Sir Isaac Newton towards his research and one of the greatest humanitarians Mother Teresa towards her service to the mankind, the feeling of research and service floods in our veins and we feel motivated to do great things to change the world for the better. In mythology, different Gods are identified for different types of qualities such as knowledge, love, courage, prosperity, food, helping nature and so on. When we think deeply on the Gods who are supposed to be the personifications of high qualities and not the forms themselves, we start cultivating the qualities they represent.
The psychology described above uses the concept of the law of attraction, which says “You become what you believe”. For an extraordinary exposition on this life-changing concept, please refer to the ground-breaking book “The Power of Your Subconscious Mind” by Joseph Murphy. In simple words, when we think deeply on a God with high qualities, we are actually thinking on the high qualities which over time we will develop ourselves.
Divya: Wow! Very beautiful concept. Vidya, we hvae covered only two interpretations of God as of now. Could you please give a general strategy how you analyze several other interpretations?
Vidya: Yes, we covered two interpretations but, those were the two most important interpretations. We can analyze the other interpretations similarly through critical thinking and unbiased analysis of the arguments. We should not be too superstitious or unquestioning as some theists are and at at the same time we should not be too ignorant and arrogant as some atheists are. An excellent book that gives strong foundations for critical thinking is “An Introduction to Critical Thinking and Creativity” by Joe Y. F. Lau, who is a PhD from MIT in Philosophy. I believe critical thinking should solve the problem.
Divya: Hmmm.. Ok. What are spirituality, religion, and culture?
Vidya: Good question. Spirituality in recent years is more related to the psychological feeling and experience of blissful transformation. It might be related to prayer, meditation, yoga, and so on. One might be non-religious, disbelieve in God, and still be spiritual.
Religion is a collection of beliefs and duties. It is a collection of principles and practices. The primary purpose of a religion is to teach man how to live a good life following morals, values, and ethics. The other main purpose of it is to express certain beliefs that does not belong to the physical word (physical world is the world that we perceive through our five senses). In many religions, the highest emphasis is given to the omnipotent God(s). One might be non-spiritual, disbelieve in God, and still be religious. There are more than 4000 religions in the world. The best unbiased exposition on religion can be found in an excellent book “Britannica Encyclopedia of World Religions” by Encyclopedia Britannica and Wendy Doniger.
Culture is the set of beliefs, customs, values, attitudes, behavior, arts, and ways of life of a particular society, group, organization, place, or time. Culture influences a religion and the religion influences the culture. One can be non-religious and still follow a culture. The other way cannot be true I believe.
Divya: At this point I have a controversial question. Is religion good or bad? If people really think on a God with high qualities why do they kill each other? Is it because of religion? Should religions be banned from Earth?
Vidya: Again, a very good one. I believe the question is similar to questions such as “Is television good or bad?”, “Is Internet good or bad?”, and so on. I believe these things/concepts themselves do not have a goodness/badness factor. The people who use them for different intentions and purposes can be tagged good or bad. Religion is neither good nor bad. Good, bad, and worst are the people who follow it for different intentions.
Regarding your follow-up question, people who think on God with high qualities can never kill or harm or even hurt others. Instead, they themselves become godly people with all good qualities. If they really hurt others, it means they are not at all thinking on a God with high qualities. In fact, they are thinking on a devil with high-level of low qualities. Personally, I do not believe any religion wants its followers to harm/hurt others. It is the people who see what they want to see, listen what they want to listen, understand what they want to understand, think what they want to think, and finally do what they want to do in the name of religions, God, and so on.
If a religion really has a bad portion then the government has to ban that portion or at least overrule those statements. If any person does something bad with any bad intention, then he should be punished severely. The worst people should be permanently deleted from Earth. Good people should be rewarded to the fullest. Only then can a society thrive and go forward and everyone can be happy. If there is one thing we should know before knowing God, it is ourselves, our mind or our psychology. The best book I would recommend to know about psychology is “Psychology” by David G. Myers. It is an excellent book.
Divya: Last question Vidya. What are your final thoughts on God?
Vidya: One can believe in any concept of God as per his knowledge and experience as long as it does not harm/hurt any other person. If he is affecting the sentiments of other people in the name of God/religion, either he has to rethink or others have to teach him how to think in a way that the person understands.
We are here to be happy and make others happy. We are here to help the less fortunate. “Be happy and do good” should be the motto of life. So, let us live a meaningful happy life and contribute as much as we can for the development of the society.
Divya: Oh my God!!! I am so happy that I met you today and learned so much. Thanks a ton for a hell lot of information.
Vidya: You are welcome Divya. By the way, when you exclaimed “Oh my God!!!” which concept of God did you mean? :)
Divya: Ha ha ha… :)